Check out Elizabeth Scalia’s NPR piece on why she remains a Catholic, despite it all. Excerpt:
The darkness within my church is real, and it has too often gone unaddressed. The light within my church is also real, and has too often gone unappreciated. A small minority has sinned, gravely, against too many. Another minority has assisted or saved the lives of millions.
But then, my country is the most generous and compassionate nation on Earth; it is also the only country that has ever deployed nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
My government is founded upon a singular appreciation of personal liberty; some of those founders owned slaves.
My family was known for its neighborliness and its work ethic; its patriarch was a serial child molester.
The child molester was also a brilliant, generous, talented man — the only person who ever read me a bedtime story. I will love him forever, for that, even when I wake up gasping and afraid.
I am saddened beyond words to know that these very real sins of commission and omission will repel people, who will miss the consolations of the church in light, out of concern for its shadows.
But the painful and incomplete news stories that have dominated this Holy Week helpfully illustrate how and why I am able to continue on in faith. Particularly during the Easter Triduum, we are thrust deeply into the crucifixion narrative of the Gospels. There, on the wood of the cross, we encounter Jesus, son of Mary, who knew shame, betrayal, abandonment, scorn, jeering, ridicule, unimaginable pain and sorrow, and submitted to them, in order to draw us into a consoling embrace that says, “I know what you are feeling; I know what you are thinking. You tortured ones, you shamed ones, you innocent ones, you slandered ones; I am the One who knows, and we are actually all in this together, and quite outside of time.”
Beautiful. If you have never been a Catholic, you can’t imagine the power and the beauty of the Catholic Paschal liturgy — a power that really does console. I will never forget the snowy Easter morning of 1998, watching Cardinal O’Connor stride up the center aisle of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, crozier in hand, while we all sang the magnificent Catholic hymn, “Lift High the Cross.” As a former Catholic, now happily Orthodox, I miss “Lift High the Cross,” and I deeply miss the Easter Vigil liturgy, especially the Service of Light in the beginning, with the Easter fire, the Paschal candle, and the chanting of “Christ our Light.” It is awe-inspiring.
While Catholics and Anglicans celebrate the Service of Light, the Orthodox tradition begins with prayers in the dark church, then involves the entire congregation parading three times around the Church singing ancient hymns, and ends with the chief priest knocking on the doors of the church, as if it were Christ’s tomb. When the doors burst open, the lights come on, and Easter (Pascha) is here. Everyone sings this marvelous hymn: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!” I love that, and I love the Paschal sermon of St. John Chrysostom, which is read from every Orthodox pulpit on Pascha. It begins like this:
If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.
If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.
If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.
If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.
If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.
For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first.
He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious.
He both honors the work and praises the intention.
Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward.
O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy!
O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day!
You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today!
The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you!
The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!
It is a hymn of mercy and thanksgiving both.
Today I was driving around listening to the Easter broadcast of Nick Spitzer’s terrific public radio show “American Routes.” Nick was playing black gospel music, and white gospel roots music. He played Lucinda Williams’ version of “Great Speckled Bird,” and I listened to all of this and thanked God silently for the black and the country white traditions of sacred music. You don’t get hymns like that or singing like that in white Catholic or Orthodox churches, and it is a great and glorious thing.
I would like readers so moved to talk in the thread that follows about their favorite parts of the Easter celebrations in their traditions. And I do wish you who observe Easter/Pascha a holy and blessed celebration. Julie and I have decided to stay home tonight and pray the Paschal liturgy in the quietness of our house. This Great Lent has been an emotional beatdown, mostly over Ruthie’s cancer, and we are too exhausted and downcast to muster the strength to go to services tonight. So please pray for us, and most especially pray for Ruthie, who remains on her cross.